Here we are, getting close to christmas, and there is a big dinner party coming up. This would normally be considered good news. However there is something of a lack of furniture about the Old Wash House. Both of us have something of a fascination for history and wondered about using dining benches, in a more medieval style, rather than acquiring some more conventional dining chairs.
Looking over the scrap wood from the old work shop there were two work benches that looked a promising basis for bench construction. A quick consultation with the wonderful world of the internet revealed that a standard dining chair is about 43cm high at the seat and the big ones are about 43cm deep at the seat. Five minutes with a tape measure revealed that the dining table in question was just over 130cm long when completely folded out. These gave the dimensions that we needed to build a bench to fit.
The smaller of the two work benches conveniently was already 43.5cm deep in the frame and just 125cm long at the frame. This seemed perfect for an initial attempt at seating manufacture. There were some slightly dodgy sections of wood in the upright/legs, but fortunately these sections were at the extreme top and bottom of the frame.
Sawing these sections off left a frame that was the right size for a dining bench, though a little on the wobbly side. The joints of the frame were only held in place with wedges and so as time had passed these wedges had shrunk and become less effective at securing the joints. The simplest way I could think of of securing the frame properly was to drill countersunk screw holes through the joints and then to hold them in place with 10cm self tapping screws.
With the frame stabilised, I located some solid pieces of wood, which were once part of the partition wall in the wash house passage. These partition planks are fortunately approximately 14.5cm wide and 330cm long, which meant that cutting to a length of 130cm gave two seating planks form each partition plank, and a bit of scrap wood. The excess was handy as the ends of one of the planks was not in great shape. So after a few bits of sawing I now had a set of three planks that were long enough to provide a seat base as long as the dining table and deep enough to give a comfortable seating surface when mounted on the frame top.
A little cautious testing proved, to my satisfaction, that the planks were strong enough for the purpose. So the last major job to do before screwing the whole lot together was to sand down all the components. The shape of the frame does mean that to do it completely it needs a certain amount of hand sanding. The priority though was to get it together and suitable to sit on. An hour and a half with an electric sander took the worst of the splinters and muck off the surface and left some actually rather attractive wood grain showing.
Once again I drilled a series of countersunk screw holes, in the planking and the flat cross bars of the frame. The countersinking being quite important on the seat planks to avoid people scraping their bottoms on the screw heads during dinner. Never a good conversation starter. More of the ubiquitous self tapping 10cm screws put the planks safely in place, leading to a usable, though still a little unfinished, bench.
It still needs a little hand sanding, to take some of the sharper angles and saw marks off, and it could do with a wax, stain, oil or varnish to seal it a bit. But generally I’m pretty happy with it. The second bench is going to need more work as it’s a lot bigger than this one initially was. Stay tuned for that build!